A report out of the House Task Force on Foreign Fighters is getting more attention following the Paris Terror attacks. Central New York Rep. John Katko, who’s a co-chair of the group, hopes it means Washington will take some of their advice about how best stop the flow of foreign fighters between Syria and their home countries.
The study, released in September, shows thousands of foreigners, including more than 250 Americans, joining jihadist groups overseas -- especially in Syria and Iraq. Katko said the U.S. knows of at least 50 who have returned to this country.
"That’s a big caveat that we know of. Because what we don’t know, we don’t know," Katko said. "And our ability to monitor them is nowhere near as good as it should be.”
So, Katko, a Republican, hopes the White House and Congress move ahead with some of the groups recommendations; among them forcing better information sharing within the United States and internationally, and closing airline security gaps for individuals who may get radicalized by ISIS in Syria and then make their way to Europe or possibly the U.S.
"We don’t have a basically worldwide data base for terrorism," Katko said. "It’s like a country by country ad hoc basis. Beefing up agreements with one country is okay, but that’s not the way. We need to coordinate a global response to terrorism -- at least with our Allies in Western Europe.”
Katko headed back to Washington early to talk to Congressional leaders about the task force findings, hoping the urgency of the political landscape following the Paris attacks, moves things forward.
“Two weeks ago, ISIS was still basically, generally, limited to [the] Middle East and with inciting violence elsewhere," Katko said. "Now they're taking their game in a different direction.”
On the subject of committing ground troops to Syria, Katko said that should only be a last resort in the fight against ISIS. He said he supports the current military strategy that focuses on a couple of areas.
"We should be training the Iraqi’s and the Syrians that are friendly with us to fight against them to help them destroy ISIS," Katko said. "And I have no problem with air strikes. I think that’s the effective way to go.”
There have been calls from some Republican quarters for a bigger military response to go after ISIS in Syria in the wake of the Paris attacks. Katko said he will never say never to the option of sending military troops to Syria, but that it would be a premature call right now.